To Know and Appreciate Asia

It is probably no great leap to say that many Filipinos lack knowledge of and appreciation for Asian societies, save perhaps their own. More knowledgeable about and oriented toward the United States and Europe, they arguably find the French Revolution more familiar than, say, the Meiji Restoration. Filipinos probably feel more at home with Zeus, Hera and the other occupants of Mount Olympus than with Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

I wish that a lot more Filipinos know and appreciate Asia. But I am not just speaking here of loving Japanese animation, listening to Korean pop music and watching Korean movies, or traveling to other Asean countries during long weekends. Studying Asia is not just about entertainment, tourism, or memorizing facts, dates and the details of famous personalities in school. More importantly, it is also about moral education and nation-building.

To serve its moral purpose, Asian Studies must be seen as a means to develop a sensitivity to and appreciation for the alien, the foreign, and the exotic. Of course, what we Filipinos initially count as such says a lot more about us than who our fellow Asians actually are. At any rate, to many Filipinos, Asia is tragically unfamiliar terrain.



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